‘Forgotten’ East Falls rec center getting $300K playground makeover

 The playground at McDevitt Rec Center in East Falls was fenced off prior to the start of a $300,000 improvement project. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

The playground at McDevitt Rec Center in East Falls was fenced off prior to the start of a $300,000 improvement project. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

In the coming months, an East Falls recreation center will be transformed by the installation of more than a quarter million dollars of playground equipment and other improvements.

Work began last week at the McDevitt Recreational Center to replace the existing playground equipment with brand-new gear. In addition, an existing “spray ground” designed to keep kids during cool during the summer months will be upgraded.

The project is expected to last two to three months, weather permitting, with an estimated cost of $300,000, funded by the city on behalf of Fourth District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr.

Desolate rep

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Sitting on 9.2 acres, according to city information, McDevitt is a multi-faceted recreation facility with three baseball fields, two tennis courts, a batting cage, a hockey court and a play area.

Having just hosted the fall East Falls youth-soccer program, which concluded this weekend after a 10-week season, the area is also popular with local dog-owners.

However, there is a perception of the center being remote.

Bounded by SEPTA train tracks and the Rt. 1 expressway, vehicles approach the site via an entrance on Scotts Lane. An additional pedestrian bridge provides access over Rt. 1 from Indian Queen Lane, but the bridge is located at the end of an alleyway that is not well-marked.

As one Yelp user described it, “It’s kind of a run-down, forgotten park.”

East Falls Sports Association board member Jen Arnoldi suggested that McDevitt sees the majority of its usage in conjunction with organized recreational leagues, but not for playing.

Arnoldi has been directly involved with the project to enhance the site, assisting the city in selecting appropriate equipment for the kids who will use the park.

No stranger to local playgrounds, she was one of the driving forces behind enhancements made to Inn Yard Park that were performed in 2011.

“The infrastructure was there,” said Arnoldi of McDevitt, “it was just in need of an upgrade.”

The process

Arnoldi referred to the work currently underway as being “phase two.” Phase one consisted of the paving of McDevitt’s driveway and various improvements made to the center’s gymnasium.

With that completed, phase two will consist of enhancements. Officials involved with the project report that the old play equipment has been removed, as was existing asphalt in what will become new planting areas.

The new playground equipment is expected to arrive by the end of this week, with its installation scheduled for the week of Nov. 11. Safety surface installation is scheduled for the week of Nov. 18.

In addition, the spray ground’s brick wall has been power washed and caulked, and its concrete pad has been removed and new waterline connection is being established.

One potential complication has been discovered so far: Officials reported a crack in the water line from the building to the spray area may exist. The problem is currently under investigation, but might require additional repair work.

Safety first

When this part of the project concludes, Arnoldi said that attention will turn to phase three: Ongoing removal of asphalt from the site, which she described as a holdover from 1970’s era design.

“The main thing is improving safety,” she said, adding that tree pits will be removed, and paved surfaces will be replaced with as much soft safety surfacing as possible.

Landscaping is also planned, with new trees being considered for low-traffic areas on the site.

“We’re just trying to make it a little more park-like,” she said.

Asked for comment on the project, Jones said the new additions will make the recreation center “even better.”

“New playground equipment, in addition to serving as necessary replacements for aging recreational infrastructure, improves the quality of recreational services to the community, improves property prices and helps bring families and community together,” said Jones.

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